Lisbon, Portugal (April 12, 2018)—The role of sound in architectural space was recently the focus of RESONATE: Thinking Sound and Space, a one-day conference co-organized by reSITE, a Prague-based nonprofit platform acting to improve the urban environment, and MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) in Lisbon, Portugal, which hosted the event. Meyer Sound was a notable collaborator for the event, which drew more than 320 participants from various disciplines.
In a panel discussion entitled “Acoustics & Architecture: Past, Present and Future,” British architect Michael Jones of Foster + Partners described how sound and acoustics were leveraged to improve creative communication at the new UK headquarters for Bloomberg, relating how Meyer Sound’s Constellation active acoustic system furthered a goal to bolster “a culture of collaboration” in some larger meeting spaces: “Instead of needing these awkward microphones and passing them around the audience, in this case the room does everything for you. The acoustic in the room is modified electronically, and it means we can have…an intellectual exchange with the kind of natural interaction we were looking to achieve.”
Meyer Sound Constellation project director John Pellowe reviewed a number of other Constellation systems in use in concert halls, universities and elsewhere, noting that the electronic technology still depends on a complementary physical space. “We still need to collaborate with architects and acousticians,” he emphasized, “because if you put these technologies in a bad space, if the base acoustic isn’t designed to accommodate the enhancements, then you have a useless base. So we will continue to work with architects to build better spaces as time goes on, and as we learn each other’s needs.”
Other presentations offered a variety of insights. In a retrospective of recent works, architect Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro presented a multi-media review of a varied array of structures, installations and events with sounds as an integral element. In relation to The Shed, a new performance space in New York, she recalled an insight from a founder of Talking Heads. “David Byrne talked about the relationship between sound and space, whether liturgical music and gothic cathedrals or rap music and the booming sound filling the interior of cars. He thinks of a musical composition as filling the particular space it is going into. So I hope this new performance space produces new musical opportunities and interceptions between the visual and performing arts.”
In closing the conference, Norwegian architect Kjetil Trædal Thorsen of Snøhetta used the new Oslo Opera House as a jumping-off point for a wide-ranging look at the core creative processes that govern the intersection of sound and space. “Listening puts your body into the center of things,” he observed, “while looking at something puts you on the periphery of things. Only with the combination of being in the center and on the periphery at the same time can you locate yourself in space. So music is all about being there, like with architecture, but it’s also about locating yourself in relation to something else.”
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